China in the 20th Century

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The article, ‘Dissidents stalked by Chinese police’, describes how, after the Tiananmen Square incident, citizens were literally stalked by the police for ‘re-education’.

Wang Hui, a Chinese citizen, was believed to be taken in by the police because she objected to the unjust arrest of her husband. Her friends have reason to believe that after failure to contact Wang Hui, they could only conclude one thing; the police, following her husband’s arrest, had taken her.

“…Police began continuous surveillance of Wang Hui, the wife of jailed activist Zhou Guioqiang. Concern for her safety intensified yesterday after she failed to make contact with friends for two days. They fear she could be held by the police.”

Before the article was written, the citizens had a special ‘code’ to make sure that the networks of houses located to them were always safe. The method was by telephoning each other at set times during the day. This would make sure that the little ‘circle’ of friends is still safe from the police. This method was also efficient in a way that if anyone did get taken away then they would be alerted very quickly.

This new method of taking the spouse away was relatively new. Before this law was enforced,

“Such tactics mark a change in how authorities deal with spouses seeking justice for their partners. In the past they have just stood back and watched as dissidents’ wives stimulated publicity.”

I think that this is an advantage to the spouses, as the women would just make a fool of themselves by stimulating publicity. However, they would have had an effective response by stimulating publicity because then other citizens would know what is going on.

“In a similar case, the dissident Wang Dan, a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement, has gone into hiding after receiving death threats police who stalked him for more than a year and a half.

‘I have a home, but I cannot go home,’ Wang Dan, 25, said. ‘I cannot stand the harassment.’ ”

This young man again suffered a similar problem to the lady mentioned above. The only difference in his case is that this man was driven into hiding after constant harassment and death threats from the police.

2. The Tiananmen Square movement was quite an emotional movement. The article describes it as, ‘Only the mad remember the massacre’. It tells us of a lady who walked the streets of Tiananmen Square ringing her hand as if she has lost some one important or other.

“The woman was clearly mad. She must have been mad because only mad dare to show their grief in public anymore.”

This shows that many other citizens who had experienced the movement pretended as though it had never happened. This is because it was probably the most frightful and hateful experience ever taken place. Not many people showed their feelings or grief in public for they would then have to face the consequences of being re-educated.

On April 15, 1989, Hu, the current secretary general of the Communist Party, died causing 1000 students to hold a pro-democracy demonstration in the central plaza of Beijing in his honour. At first, the protest was small and no action was taken against the liberal students. Over a quarter million students joined the demonstration within the next month and near the end of April, the Chinese government warned students to end demonstrating otherwise action would be taken. On March 17, the protest swelled to over one million, causing the Chinese government to implement martial law three days later. Military personnel were sent into the city to break up the protest, but protesters were able to block them from entering Tiananmen Square, the centre of the unrest. On June 4th, the Chinese army made their move. Thousands of troops stormed the square, using tanks, clubs, tear gas, and machine guns on the unarmed protesters. Estimated death totalled at 1000 soldiers and 3000 civilians, but the Chinese government reported only 300 fatalities. By the end of June, almost 2 thousand people were arrested and 27 executed for counterrevolutionary activities. This event strained the world’s relationship with China because of the government’s abuse of human rights especially since early action on part of the government could have stopped the bloodshed. (Google search: ‘Tiananmen Square’)

Elderly men were punched. Women with children were fiercely knocked to the ground, and more than a dozen people were arrested after attempting to sit in a circle and meditate under the watchful gaze of a huge portrait of Chairman Mao. An all-day series of cat-and-mouse skirmishes spilled across Tiananmen Square in Beijing on April 25, 2000 – the one-year anniversary of huge protests by the since-outlawed group Falun Gong.

Despite ominous allusions in the press to an ultimate showdown with “a doomsday cult” that “is still capable of raising the devil in China,” the day ended with scores in custody, many of them injured, but no resolution to the government’s struggle with the group

If anything, the lack of a conclusive showdown will be seen as a bitter blow to Beijing’s ruling Communist Party, which is intent on demonstrating its ability to crush a group that claims millions of adherents across China.

While the battalions of police did manage to keep unrest from sweeping across the square, the heavy-handed tactics only exposed a weakness in the world’s most populous nation.

Once again, China was unable to quiet the voice of Falun Gong followers. They shouted from vans as they were being taken away. They screamed to onlookers as the police knocked them to the ground.

Tiananmen Square was the scene of nearly constant protest throughout the day. In small clusters, teams would race into the center of the square, pulling out a hidden banner before police converged. This reporter watched as one man was knocked to the ground and hustled away in seconds.

The series of protests, clearly organized in advance, reiterated what many have been murmuring for months in official circles: Beijing’s hard-headed approach is not winning the year-long battle with the pesky Falun Gong.

Beijing would desperately like to deliver a knockout blow to the group, which has gained immense popularity in the mainland since its formation in 1992. The group offers a rare and refreshing philosophy that mixes mediation and exercise. China condemns it as a religious cult. The Falun Gong was outlawed last July.

Yet, despite mass arrests, long sentences in labor camps administered without trial, and other harsh measures that have earned China fresh-new condemnation by human rights groups worldwide – as well as providing new ammunition for foes opposing the country’s entry to the World Trade Organization in America – Beijing has been unable to crush the Falun Gong.

That has been the hope of the ruling party in Beijing, which has endured months of almost daily protests in the square. Hardly a day goes by without new reports of protests, arrests and condemnation of the group. Most protests have been small in recent weeks. A few members of the group would appear and try to unfurl a banner before being spirited away by secret police.

But Tuesday’s confrontations were seen as something of a showdown. All week, the state-run press unleashed a barrage of condemnation rare even for the Chinese government. The official China Daily ran editorials every day last week, linking the Falun Gong to all of China’s perceived enemies, from human-rights groups at the United Nations to archenemy, the Dalai Lama.

America was singled out in a virulent but largely incoherent tirade that detailed the large prison population in the United States and pointed out its high proportion of blacks. From there, it wandered through a litany of US evils including hypocrisy on human rights abuses to the still-stinging American bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

America was also attacked for taking action on domestic terrorism while criticizing the Chinese crackdown the Falun Gong. The editorial called the Falun Gong a more dangerous cult than the Branch Davidians, or anything seen from Japan to Uganda. “The Falun Gong really has Beijing scared,” a Western diplomat said in an obvious understatement.

To many inside and outside China, it must seem a mystery. How can a group largely made up of elderly people waving their arms and practicing breathing in parks be seen as a challenge to an entire country – particularly one of the world’s largest and most powerful?

Yet that’s the case, and misinformation flows freely throughout this still-largely closed society.

“Keep away from the square,” a Chinese guide warned Tuesday at the nearby Forbidden City. “There is a revolution going on there.”

Indeed, that is how many in China perceive any confrontational group. They can hardly be blamed, given the rhetoric and condemnation coming from the Chinese side. Contrasting the hysteria in the run-up to the protests in the square, no local media coverage was given to the actual events and the police response on April 25.

The Falun Gong, with its mixture of religious philosophy and meditative exercise, might seem to some an unlikely foe. Yet politics and religious philosophy have often mixed in explosive ways in the Middle Kingdom.

One only has to go back to the Taiping Rebellion in the 19th century, when an aspiring Chinese civil servant decided, following a series of visions, that he was the brother of Jesus. Gathering adherents, he soon mustered an army that took Nanjing and marched on Shanghai. An astonishing 20 million Chinese were estimated to have died in that civil war.

Many can easily draw parallels to the Falun Gong, which was founded by Li Hongzhi, a former government grain clerk who now lives in New York. The group claims 70 million to 100 million adherents worldwide. Beijing asserts the number in China is only 2 million, and contends that 98 percent have since renounced the “brainwashing” of the alleged cult.

Whatever the exact number, tens of thousands of its members have been arrested since the Communist Party banned the movement last year. Falun Gong spokespeople say at least 5,000 members have been condemned to labor camps in administrative actions that do not require a trial.

Beijing accuses the Falun Gong of causing the deaths of more than 1,500 people, mostly by forcing them to forgo medical care for serious illnesses. Another 600 have been driven insane, according to government statements.

And so the battle lines have been drawn. Tuesday, they were crossed, again and again.

By morning, police surrounded Beijing’s central square. Time and again, they grabbed people and pushed them into waiting vans. By noon, nearly a hundred had been taken away.

Roadblocks were manned on key approaches to the square, where other security teams checked identity cards. “The idea is to not even let anyone close to the square,” an observer said.

The tough tactics did not break the Falun Gong, but they produced plenty of fear. “Nothing happened,” said a photographer who snaps pictures to sell to tourists in Tiananmen. Seconds before, police knocked a man to the ground paces away, and then dragged him into a waiting van. It sped off, before his eyes. “It is nothing at all,” he insisted before moving quickly away.

Few in the square were willing to talk about the events around them, but many were listening. Chinese tourists hustled away from reporters, glancing fearfully at secret police on the scene. They mobbed the square with mobile phones and security cameras. No attempt at stealth was made. “They are trying to send a message,” a reporter on the scene said.

Oddly enough, the crackdown was played out in full view of foreign tourists, who continued to flock to Tiananmen Square and nearby tourist attractions. Among them was a British couple that said they noticed big crowds on the square, but nothing unusual.

Tom, a visitor from North Carolina, said many in his group were worried about security on the square during the anniversary. “But I see it as an opportunity,” he said, “an opportunity to witness history.”

Rolf, from Germany, was also aware of his witness status. “I saw the police, pulling people, taking them away,” he said. “It was horrible.”

If a message had been sent on the anniversary of the Falun Gong’s first protest, Rolf said he would happily convey it. However, it wasn’t quite the message Beijing wants the world to hear.

“I’ll tell people what I saw today on Tiananmen,” he said. Then, before getting in his mini-bus, he said: “This is terrible. This is democracy in China” (Google search: ‘Tiananmen Square)

3. a) The two articles share a lot of similarities. They both refer to the Tiananmen Square incident and are criticising the people who remember the event and demand justice. The first article, ‘Dissidents stalked by Chinese police’, exposes a lady and a man. The lady who wants justice for the arrest of her husband and the man is being stalked by the police so badly that he has been forced into hiding.

“Last week plainclothes police began the continuous surveillance of Wang Hui, the wife of jailed activist Zhou Guioqiang. Concern for her safety intensified yesterday after she failed to make contact with friends for two days. They fear she could be held by the police.”

The Chinese citizens had a ‘secret’ way of communicating so that it didn’t raise suspicion. The ‘group’ of friends would allocate times to each other at which to phone and make sure that everything was ok. This reassured the group of friends that everyone in their circle was still safe. However, as in the above quotation, if one fails to respond to the method, then it raises a search and eventually they are caught.

“In a similar case, the dissident Wang Dan, a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement, has gone into hiding after receiving death threats from police who stalked him for more than a year and a half.

‘I have a home, but I cannot go home,’ Wang Dan, 25, said. ‘I cannot stand the harassment’.”

Here the young man is being harassed and given death threats from the police that make him feel uneasy and followed that force him into hiding.

The second article, ‘Only the mad remember the massacre’, is about how the Chinese police label citizens as mad just because they express themselves openly about the Tiananmen Square movement.

“The woman was clearly mad. She must have been mad because only the mad dare show their grief in public anymore.”

This shows that everyone else who had experienced the event pretends that it never happened. Only a few people are not afraid of expressing their feelings in public because they believe that it is wrong to deny such a major movement. Also, they may have experienced the loss of loved ones during the movement, which makes it difficult for them to pretend it never happened.

b) Despite the similarities, the two cuttings also have a few differences.

In the first article, ‘Dissidents stalked by Chinese police” the two activists are being stalked and taunted by the Chinese police and are not being ignored. However, in the second article, the old lady has been labelled as a mad woman simply because she has not forgotten the massacre; she is being ignored by the police.

4. I think that Chinese citizens were still challenging the government six years after the Tiananmen Square movement because they felt that they could still change the law if they rebelled enough. Also, people were told to pretend that the Tiananmen Square event never took place; if people threatened the government that they would repeat the incident again.

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